Re: Income vs. IQ

I William Wiser (
Thu, 19 Jun 1997 21:54:54 -0700

Robin Hanson wrote:

>I William Wiser writes:
>>I don't think IQ differences above a certain level are meaningful
>If this is true it has great implications for AI and for human
>>Again I think the compound interest analogy is good with very high IQs
>>adding small percentages which take a long time to become significant.
>This also sounds like a declining marginal value of intelligence.

I suppose I wasn't specific enough. IQ is thing measured by IQ tests.
It has a correlation to some forms of intelligence in some groups but is
not the same thing as intelligence. When I say I don't think IQ above
a certain level is meaningful I mean that I do not think the tests are
very reliably correlated to intelligence above certain scores. I don't
think we are approaching some upper limit on intelligence or the parts
of intelligence most useful for making money.

IQ tests measure factors other that those used for generating income.
As a wild guess I would say there is a set of normal curves that make
up IQ and it is progressively unlikely for a person to be at the upper
end of larger numbers of them (though you may be able to use some forms
of intelligence to develop others). Some of these curves are related to
income but once a person reaches a high number in several of those it
is more likely that additional IQ increases are in other areas. These
are genetic and cultural curves that can be changed by genetic
engineering, smart drugs, and better training methods and don't apply
to AIs.

Certainly there are things other than intelligence that affect income.
I would guess there are factors that serve as limits, thresholds,
multipliers, and inverted Us. There is also the match of individual
traits and skills to environments. Over time there is more of a chance
that a rarely used talent will be of value. Also there are many rewards
to a person not normally classed as income. It could be that higher
IQs encourage the seeking of more diverse forms of reward but that over
time it becomes more likely that someone with a high IQ will eventually
become interested in income and focus on it.

This is one of those areas that seems like it would be a lot more
informative with some data and a spreadsheet or some simulations,
but I can't think of anything I would do with the answers if I had
them. There is a lot of demand for intelligence testing and predicting
success at various things though.

If we took a thousand Marilyn vos Savants and a thousand Bill Gateses
and left them alone for a thousand years who would end up with the
higher IQ, who would end up with the most money and who would have
the most fun? From my rough perspective of history the people with the
highest IQs have not been the richest but they have done well. The
people with the most money have not been the brightest but they were
not dummies. I am not sure who has had more fun or if it is not some
third group. I think given enough time the brightest ones would end
up being the richest ones.

>Over all I find it hard to imagine a futere where income inqualities
>are not much greater than they are now.

My guess would be that most people will get richer but the rich and
the smart will get richer faster. Many people are however more
concerned with relative wealth than absolute wealth. It makes a lot
of sense if you are competing for mates or survival but is less
important if you just want to have fun in a relatively peaceful

I. William Wiser  <>  Longevity Consultant